Merchant seaman lands best site in the cemetery


Each spring, the Angel Gabriel emerges triumphantly from his wooden winter quarters at Loudon Park Cemetery in Southwest Baltimore.

It takes six men to uncrate this winged Victorian statue and three others that flank the entrance to the mausoleum that contains the tombs of Richard B. Fitzgerald, a noted merchant seaman, and his wife.

For generations, Captain Fitzgerald's descendants have paid for covering and uncovering the statues.

The November encasement and the May uncovering of the limestone statues are all in a day's work for Robert Larsen, grounds superintendent of the historic, 500-acre burial park that stretches from Frederick to Wilkens avenues.

Early in November, Larsen's crew takes specially made wooden sheds from a storage area and installs them over four statues -- the Angel Gabriel, a stone likeness of Christ and a pair of funerary urns carved with biblical figures.

The crew does not move the statues, but fits the wooden housing around them as if they were fitting slipcovers.

One morning last month, the crew removed the wooden covers for the spring and summer. When the days grow short and chilly in the fall, the covers will return.

Captain Fitzgerald lived on Franklin Street and was known for his voyages to the South Pacific. "Enterprising, genial, whole-souled, he was deservedly prosperous," noted an obituary published after his death on March 14, 1869.

The large Fitzgerald family mausoleum is situated on one of Loudon Park's highest points. It is built into the sunny southern side of a hill in the Double O section of the burial park that is home to many of Baltimore's sleeping citizens. If you stand on the hill where Captain Fitzgerald rests, you can see the Patapsco River in the distance.

A black wrought-iron fence, decorated with a pair of mourning doves, encloses the mausoleum, one of the largest and most prominent in the rambling cemetery where 300,000 Baltimoreans have been interred since 1853.

Captain Fitzgerald, who is buried with his wife, the former Susannah Capito, may have himself selected this choice location in Loudon Park.

His immediate neighbor is the mausoleum of William Wilkens, who made a fortune in reprocessing horses' hair. Wilkens Avenue, Loudon Park's southern boundary, is named for him.

Grounds superintendent Larsen says the hill where the Fitzgerald mausoleum sits is a favorite spot of the foxes who live on the cemetery grounds.

"The foxes are primarily nocturnal, but if it's a cold winter day, they'll come out to sun themselves on that hill. I guess the monument stones are warm," Larsen says.

"It is not unusual for us to get requests [to maintain burial plots] but this is one of our oldest. No other family instructs us to cover the stone monuments each winter," says James R. Mulvaney, general manager of Loudon Park.

Mulvaney shows several files pertaining to the Fitzgeralds. One letter, dated Dec. 10, 1884, states that the four statues are to be covered during winter. The Fitzgerald family maintains an account at the Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co. to pay the cemetery for the work of covering and uncovering the statues and to replace the wooden boxes when they wear out.

"That's a long time to be packing and repacking, but we always try to go along with a family's wishes," Mulvaney says. "A niece comes down from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and looks over the graves to make sure everything is the way it should be."

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